On March 9. 2006. the body of Tom Fox, Quaker, peace activist, and member of the Christian Peacemaker Teams, was found in Baghdad. He had died from gunshot wounds to the head and chest. The 54-year-old Friend from Clear Brook , Virginia, member of Langley Hill Friends Meeting, had been taken hostage on November 26, 2005, together with 3 CPT team mates. His team mates were safely released in Baghdad on March 23.
Tom had worked for two years with Christian Peacemaker Teams in Palestine and Iraq. Before his capture he had been working with Iraqi human rights organizations to promote peace. He provided first-hand, independent reports from the region, worked with detainees of both United States and Iraqi forces, and trained others in nonviolent intervention and human rights documentation. In his work with incarcerated Iraqis, he often served as the only link between them and their families on the outside. Fox also escorted shipments of medicine to clinics and hospitals and worked to form an Islamic Peacemakers Team.
The day after his body was found, Christian Peacemaker Teams responded to the news of Tom’s death by asking “that everyone set aside inclinations to vilify or demonize others, no matter what they have done. In Tom’s own words: ‘We reject violence to punish anyone. We ask that there be no retaliation on relatives or property. We forgive those who consider us their enemies. We hope that in loving both friends and enemies and by intervening nonviolently to aid those who are systematically oppressed, we can contribute in some small way to transforming this volatile situation.’
Christian Peacemaker Teams commemorated Tom Fox in Baghdad by erecting traditional funeral banners at the site where his body was found. On the CPT web site, Doug Pritchard wrote that these banners are all too common in Iraq today. In careful consultation with Iraqis, they painted the following words on the large black banners, in Arabic: “In memory of Tom Fox in this place. Christian Peacemaker Teams declares, ‘We are for God and we are from God.’ To those who held him we declare God has forgiven you.” The first sentence notes the place of his body. The second is a traditional condolence from the Qur’an. The third sentence echoes Jesus cry from the cross “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” It is also in keeping with the local understanding that people do not forgive, only God can forgive.
A memorial service was held for Tom at a local church in Baghdad on March 12. Fifty Christian and Muslim friends of Tom’s attended. The team read from Tom’s writings, gave a eulogy, and sang his favorite hymn, “Be Thou My Vision.” After the service, the team was sharing with an Iraqi friend their concern for Tom’s children and their regrets that any children they might have will never know their grandfather. The friend replied, “Tom is a hero. It will be an honor for those children to have a grandfather who died in this way and to tell their children about him. I never met anyone like you people who would come here, at this time, to people whom you don’t know. You are angels.”
Tom Fox shared many inspiring insights of his faith on his blog site. In 2004 he wrote of a “very clear image” that had emerged in worship: “.. .of a land of shadows and darkness. But within that land candles were burning; not many but enough to shed some light on the landscape. Some candles disappeared and it was my sense that their light was taken away for protection. Other candles burned until nothing was left and a small number of candles seemed to have their light snuffed out by the shadows and the darkness. What was most striking to me was that as the candles that burned until the end and as the candles whose light was snuffed out ceased to burn, more candles came into being, seemingly to build on their light.”
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